The Musical Ass

We present this work in honor of the 230th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Tomas de Iriarte y Oropesa
Spanish
1750 – 1791

 

The fable which I now present,
Occurred to me by accident:
And whether bad or excellent,
Is merely so by accident.

A stupid ass this morning went
Into a field by accident:
And cropped his food, and was content,
Until he spied by accident
A flute, which some oblivious gent
Had left behind by accident;
When, sniffling it with eager scent,
He breathed on it by accident,
And made the hollow instrument
Emit a sound by accident.
“Hurrah, hurrah!” exclaimed the brute,
“How cleverly I play the flute!”

A fool, in spite of nature’s bent,
May shine for once, by accident.

Maxims

08-22 Ajiba
Ahmad Ibn Ajiba
Moroccan
1747 – 1809

 

If one did not stop in the shadows of things,
the heart would be illuminated by the sun of gnosis.

If it were not for shackles and obstacles,
the suns of realities would be seen to shine.

If there were neither individual will nor free will,
the shadow of otherness would withdraw from the heart.

If there were not passions and desires,
aspirations would become real in less than the wink of an eye.

If there were not bad tendencies and defects,
invisible secrets would make themselves manifest.

Without the struggle with oneself,
the secret of the elect would not appear.

Without the company of true men,
no one knows how to distinguish imperfection from perfection.

Without the company of the great,
the hearts and their depths cannot be purified.

Without the service of true men,
no one can reach the degrees of perfection.

Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes

We present this work in honor of the 250th anniversary of the poet’s death.

050, 9/23/99, 10:53 AM,  8C, 3372x2952,  75%, chrom7, 1/40s, R252, G200, B348,
Thomas Gray
English
1716 – 1771

 

T’was on a lofty vase’s side,
Where China’s gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
She saw; and purred applause.

Still had she gazed; but ‘midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The genii of the stream:
Their scaly armor’s Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
Betrayed a golden gleam.

The hapless nymph with wonder saw:
A whisker first and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat’s averse to fish?

Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretched, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
She tumbled headlong in.

Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
A favorite has no friend!

From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters, gold.

Lament for Airt Uí Laoghaire

07-28 Ni Chonaill
Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill
Irish
1743 – 1800

 

I

My steadfast love!
When I saw you one day
by the market-house gable
my eye gave a look
my heart shone out
I fled with you far
from friends and home.

And never was sorry:
you had parlours painted
rooms decked out
the oven reddened
and loaves made up
roasts on spits
and cattle slaughtered;
I slept in duck-down
till noontime came
or later if I liked.

My steadfast friend!
it comes to my mind
that fine Spring day
how well your hat looked
with the drawn gold band,
the sword silver-hilted
your fine brave hand
and menacing prance,
and the fearful tremble
of treacherous enemies.
You were set to ride
your slim white-faced steed
and Saxons saluted
down to the ground,
not from good will
but by dint of fear
– though you died at their hands,
my soul’s beloved…

My steadfast friend!
And when they come home,
our little pet Conchúr
and baby Fear Ó Laoghaire,
they will ask at once
where I left their father.
I will tell them in woe
he is left in Cill na Martar,
and they’ll call for their father
and get no answer…

My steadfast friend!
I didn’t credit your death
till your horse came home
and her reins on the ground,
your heart’s blood on her back
to the polished saddle
where you sat – where you stood….
I gave a leap to the door,
a second leap to the gate
and a third on your horse.

I clapped my hands quickly
and started mad running
as hard as I could,
to find you there dead
by a low furze-bush
with no Pope or bishop
or clergy or priest
to read a psalm over you
but a spent old woman
who spread her cloak corner
where your blood streamed from you,
and I didn’t stop to clean it
but drank it from my palms.

My steadfast love!
Arise, stand up
and come with myself
and I’ll have cattle slaughtered
and call fine company
and hurry up the music
and make you up a bed
with bright sheets upon it
and fine speckled quilts
to bring you out in a sweat
where the cold has caught you.

II

My friend and my treasure!
Many fine-made women
from Cork of the sails
to Droichead na Tóime
would bring you great herds
and a yellow gold handful,
and not sleep in their room
on the night of your wake.

My friend and my lamb!
Don’t you believe them
nor the scandal you heard
nor the jealous man’s gossip
that it’s sleeping I went.
It was no heavy slumber
but your babies so troubled
and all of them needing
to be settled in peace.

People of my heart,
what woman in Ireland
from setting of sun
could stretch out beside him
and bear him three sucklings
and not run wild
losing Art Ó Laoghaire
who lies here vanquished
since yesterday morning?…

Long loss, bitter grief
I was not by your side
when the bullet was fired
so my right side could take it
or the edge of my shift
till I freed you to the hills,
my fine-handed horseman!

My sharp bitter loss
I was not at your back
when the powder was fired
so my fine waist could take it
or the edge of my dress,
till I let you go free,
My grey-eyed rider,
ablest for them all.

III

My friend and my treasure trove!
An ugly outfit for a warrior:
a coffin and a cap
on that great-hearted horseman
who fished in the rivers
and drank in the halls
with white-breasted women.
My thousand confusions
I have lost the use of you.
Ruin and bad cess to you,
ugly traitor Morris,
who took the man of my house
and father of my young ones
– a pair walking the house
and the third in my womb,
and I doubt that I’ll bear it.

My friend and beloved!
When you left through the gate
you came in again quickly,
you kissed both your children,
kissed the tips of my fingers.
You said: ” Eibhlín, stand up
and finish with your work
lively and swiftly:
I am leaving our home
and may never return.”
I made nothing of his talk
for he spoke often so.

My friend and my share!
O bright-sworded rider
rise up now,
put on your immaculate
fine suit of clothes,
put on your black beaver
and pull on your gloves.
There above is your whip
and your mare is outside.
Take the narrow road Eastward
where the bushes bend before you
and the stream will narrow for you
and men and women will bow
if they have their proper manners
– as I doubt they have at present…

My love, and my beloved!
Not my people who have died
– not my three dead children
nor big Dónall Ó Conaill
nor Conall drowned on the sea
nor the girl of twenty-six
who went across the ocean
alliancing with kings
– not all these do I summon
but Art, reaped from his feet last night
on the inch of Carriginima.
The brown mare’s rider
deserted here beside me,
no living being near him
but the little black mill-women
– and to top my thousand troubles
their eyes not even streaming.

My friend and my calf!
O Art Ó Laoghaire
son of Conchúr son of Céadach
son of Laoiseach Ó Laoghaire:
West from the Gaortha
and East from the Caolchnoc
where the berries grow,
yellow nuts on the branches
and masses of apples
in their proper season
– need anyone wonder
if Uibh Laoghaire were alight
and Béal Atha an Ghaorthaígh
and Gúgán the holy
or the fine-handed rider
who used tire out the hunt
as they panted from Greanach
and the slim hounds gave up?
Alluring-eyed rider,
o what ailed you last night?
For I thought myself
when I bought your uniform
the world couldn’t kill you!

IV

My love and my darling!
My love, my bright dove!
Though I couldn’t be with you
nor bring you my people
that’s no cause for reproach,
for hard pressed were they all
in shuttered rooms
and narrow coffins
in a sleep with no waking.

Were it not for the smallpox
and the black death
and the spotted fever
those rough horse-riders
would be rattling their reins
and making a tumult
on the way to your funeral,
Art of the bright breast…

My friend and my calf!
A vision in dream
was vouchsafed me last night
in Cork, a late hour,
in bed by myself:
our white mansion had fallen,
the Gaortha had withered,
our slim hounds were silent
and no sweet birds,
when you were found spent
out in midst of the mountain
with no priest or cleric
but an ancient old woman
to spread the edge of her cloak,
and you stitched to the earth,
Art Ó Laoghaire,
and streams of your blood
on the breast of your shirt.

My love and my darling!
It is well they became you
your stocking, five-ply,
riding -boots to the knee,
cornered Caroline hat
and a lively whip
on a spirited gelding,
many modest mild maidens
admiring behind you.

My steadfast love!
When you walked through the servile
strong-built towns,
the merchants’ wives
would salute to the ground
knowing well in their hearts
a fine bed-mate you were
a great front-rider
and father of children.

Jesus Christ well knows
there’s no cap upon my skull
nor shift next to my body
nor shoe upon my foot-sole
nor furniture in my house
nor reins on the brown mare
but I’ll spend it on the law;
that I’ll go across the ocean
to argue with the King,
and if he won’t pay attention
that I’ll come back again
to the black-blooded savage
that took my treasure.

V

My love and my beloved!
Your corn-stacks are standing,
your yellow cows milking.
Your grief upon my heart
all Munster couldn’t cure,
nor the smiths of Oiledn na bhFionn.

Till Art Ó Laoghaire comes
my grief will not disperse
but cram my heart’s core,
shut firmly in
like a trunk locked up
when the key is lost.

Women there weeping,
stay there where you are,
till Art Mac Conchúir summons drink
with some extra for the poor
– ere he enter that school
not for study or for music
but to bear clay and stones.

The Banks o’ Doon

We present this work in honor of the 225th anniversary of the poet’s death.

07-21 Burns
Robert Burns
Scots
1759 – 1796

 

Ye banks and braes o’ bonie Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
And I sae weary fu’ o’ care!
Thou’ll break my heart, thou warbling bird,
That wantons thro’ the flowering thorn:
Thou minds me o’ departed joys,
Departed never to return.

Aft hae I rov’d by Bonie Doon,
To see the rose and woodbine twine:
And ilka bird sang o’ its Luve,
And fondly sae did I o’ mine;
Wi’ lightsome heart I pu’d a rose,
Fu’ sweet upon its thorny tree!
And may fause Luver staw my rose,
But ah! he left the thorn wi’ me.

The Head-Ach or An Ode to Health

07-10 Cave
Jane Cave
Welsh
1754 – 1812

 

O Health! thou dear invaluable guest!
Thy rosy subjects, how supremely blest!
Hear the blith milk-maid and the plough-boy sing,
Nor envy they the station of a king;
While Kings thy sweets to gain would gladly bow,
Resign their crowns and guide the rustic’s plough:
Thou pearl surpassing riches, power or birth!
Of blessings thou the greatest known on earth!
Thy value’s found like that of bards of yore,
We know to prize thee when thou art no more!
Ah! Why from me; art thou for ever flown?
Why deaf to ev’ry agonizing groan?
Not one short month for ten revolving years,
But pain within my frame its sceptre rears!
In each successive month full twelve long days
And tedious nights my sun withdraws his rays!
Leaves me in silent anguish on my bed,
Afflicting all the members in the head;
Through ev’ry particle the torture flies,
But centers in the temples, brain and eyes;
The efforts of the hands and feet are vain,
While bows the head with agonizing pain;
While heaves the breast th’ unutterable sigh,
And the big tear drops from the languid eye.
For ah! my children want a mother’s care,
A husband too, should due assistance share;
Myself for action form’d would fain thro’ life
Be found th’ assiduous–valuable wife;
But now, behold, I live unfit for aught;
Inactive half my days except in thought,
And this so vague while torture clogs my hours,
I sigh, Oh, ‘twill derange my mental powers!
Or by its dire excess dissolve my sight,
And thus entomb me in perptual night!
Ye sage Physicians, where’s your wonted skill?
In vain the blisters, bolusses and pill;
Great Neptune’s swelling waves in vain I try’d,
My malady its utmost power defy’d;
In vain the British and Cephalic Snuff,
All Patent Medicines are empty stuff;
The launcet, leech, and cupping swell the train
Of useless efforts, which but gave me pain;
Each art and application rain has prov’d,
For ah! my sad complaint is not remo’v’d.
Live’s one on earth possess’d of sympathy,
Who knows what is presum’d a remedy?
O send it hither! I again would try,
Tho’ in the attempt of conqu’ring I die.
For thus to languish on is worse than death,
And I have hope if Heav’n recall my breath.

Here’s to the Maiden of Bashful Fifteen

We present this work in honor of the 205th anniversary of the poet’s death.

07-07 Sheridan
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Irish
1751 – 1816

 

Here’s to the maiden of bashful fifteen;
Here’s to the widow of fifty;
Here’s to the flaunting extravagant quean,
And here’s to the housewife that’s thrifty.

Let the toast pass,—
Drink to the lass,
I’ll warrant she’ll prove an excuse for the glass.

Here’s to the charmer whose dimples we prize;
Now to the maid who has none, sir:
Here’s to the girl with a pair of blue eyes,
And here’s to the nymph with but one, sir.

Let the toast pass,—
Drink to the lass,
I’ll warrant she’ll prove an excuse for the glass.

Here’s to the maid with a bosom of snow;
Now to her that’s as brown as a berry:
Here’s to the wife with her face full of woe,
And now to the damsel that’s merry.

Let the toast pass,—
Drink to the lass,
I’ll warrant she’ll prove an excuse for the glass.

For let ‘em be clumsy, or let ‘em be slim,
Young or ancient, I care not a feather;
So fill a pint bumper quite up to the brim,
And let us e’en toast them together.

Let the toast pass,—
Drink to the lass,
I’ll warrant she’ll prove an excuse for the glass.

The Rose Garland

06-09 Klopstock
Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock
German
1724 – 1803

 

In the shade of spring I found her
then with garlands of roses bound her;
she did not feel it and slumbered on.

I looked at her: my life hung
upon her life with this glance;
I truly felt it, and knew it not.

But speechlessly I whispered to her
and rustled with the rose garlands;
then she woke from slumber.

She looked at me; her life hung
upon my life with this one glance
and around us rose Elysium.

The Storm

We present this work in honor of Eid al-Fitr.

Mohammad ben Sliman
Moroccan
? – 1792

 

Friends, yesterday my beloved visited; it was the middle of Ramadan,
and it was as if I had gathered honey and roses,
but I was accused of breaking the fast—
why shouldn’t I have done so, after so much solitude!
Isn’t the sick person advised not to fast?

After the long drought, the storm makes its drum rumble;
saber at the ready, lightning routs the defeated cavalry;
while the wind, that intrepid rider,
after a short rest is ready to rumble.

The downpour attacks, standard flying,
victorious showers that have the torrents on the run,
and wherever the eye turns
my overflowing heart sees only green.

From the fields in bloom rises perfume—
spring, a king with no rival,
and restful shade
have invented marvelous new clothes.

Joyous inventor, Spring dispenses his riches:
roses, wild flowers, concerts of birdsong—
in a festive garden
where the bee gathers nectar among the roses.

Friends, yesterday my beloved visited; it was the middle of Ramadan,
and it was as if I had gathered honey and roses,
but I was accused of breaking the fast—
why shouldn’t I have done so, after so much solitude!
Isn’t the sick person advised not to fast?

Written at an Early Period of the Revolutionary War

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 270th birthday.

Judith Sargent Murray
American
1751 – 1820

 

When will these rude tumultuous clamours cease,
When shall we hear the genial voice of peace;
My tir’d soul is sick of these alarms,
This vain parade, this constant din of arms.
I wish, devoutly wish, for some retreat,
Where but the shepherd’s pipe my ear may greet,
Where I may calmly hail the rising day,
On life’s eventful threshold while I stray.
I would in its variety enjoy,
The mental feast I would my hours employ,
To cull the flowers of wisdom as they grow,
To reap the fruits which love and truth bestow.

But ah! Alas! On a rough Ocean tost,
To all the bliss of social pleasures lost;
My little back by winds of passion driv’n,
Blown to, and fro, by each opinion giv’n;
Sees in perspective no auspicious shore

Which can its safety, or its hopes restore;
Terrifick visions in succession rise,
A host of fears the trembling soul surprise.

And can it be, will dark vindictive rage,
‘Gainst helpless towns revengeful battle wage,
When far removed from the hostile scene
When cities rise, when Oceans roll between

Must Glous’ter though obscure be doom’d to feel,
The British thunder, and the British steel,
Forbid it British valour, British grace,
And spare so little, so remote a place.